Monday, April 30, 2012

Of Writing and Running

I'm  fast finding out that writing a novel is akin to running a marathon - or in my case, running long distances.

The idea may seem like a good thing at the time, but really, the whole experience is a lot of hardship, harsh slog, isolation, revising, long hours and many, many tears.

Stupidly, I'm preparing for a half marathon at the moment - or more accurately, a 23 kilometre slog along the Great Ocean Road. I'm walking and running and generally trying to do 1-2 hours of training a day. I'm scaling hills, getting in extra runs and trying to make sure that when I do go down to Apollo Bay back in three weeks time, I'll be okay as I make my way along the undulating hills that are more than likely going to supply an evil head wind and a good slice of hail. Fun.

Writing a novel is more difficult than running long distances. Writing a novel makes running a marathon feel like a walk in the park with a zimmer frame.

See, the great thing about distance running is that the pain goes away when you stop. If you practice regularly, you get better, things get easier, and you know that what ever you're training for will be conquered.

Writing a novel is not like this. It's frustrating. It's infuriating. It's one of the most difficult things I've ever turned my hand to. It's having the ability to send me loopier than three pints of pear cider and turn me to mush.

See, the thing about writing a novel, unlike running long distances, is that it's fraught with failure. If you don't want to run, you don't have to. You only fail yourself and you can do it another day. Writing isn't like this. The more you put down your novel, the less you have to show for it (yeah, that is the same for running - but the proof of the failure is more tangible.) Then there are the countless revisions, tweaks, updates, changes - and this is all in the first 5000 words...

Running is a wonderful, simple, fluid motion - one foot in front of the other and repeat, ad nauseam.

Writing isn't like this.

Writing is not fluid. It's strained, angst-ridden and harsh. It is a crippling bastard of a master.

Running, once you have the mechanics, is generally pretty easy - okay, you might want to dash up a few hills, or learn how to tempo run or increase your speed or distance.

Writing is something you learn as a child - and I think I will be honing my abilities until the day I die. It's a hard, hard, hard thing to do.

Okay, it's a hard, hard thing to do when you're me - something of a perfectionist, and something of a snob when it comes to creative writing. I'm my own worst critic.

I have memories of sitting in a car with David Malouf, one of Australia's most critically acclaimed authors. I was driving authors for the Writer's Festival. We got stuck in traffic. We started to talk writing  - he was curious that I'd had a couple of short stories published in literary magazines.
"Do you agonise over commas?" he asked me.
"Yes. Always." (Which I do when I'm not writing this blog. Here I pay attention to punctuation - when I'm in literary mode I agonise over those 14 marks of torture.)
"You will be fine," he told me.

Also, being a runner, and an IT Consultant - among other things - I'm time poor - I don't have the luxury of having a lot of spare time to write my novel. It's a half hour here, lunchtime there, evening in front of the computer other times. I make notes on my iPhone and in my handbag note book. I scribble in meetings on scraps of paper if a turn of phrase comes to my mind. I try an organise my thoughts so that when I get a chance, what I write is okay.

Then again, it's probably a fools errand, a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

This novel lark is really one of the hardest, most terrible, but ultimately, most enriching thing I have ever taken on.

I just hope that it's not the drivel I suspect it is.


On a completely different topic, I found out something tonight.

People generally think the worst.

My facebook status was set at 5.30 pm this evening to read the following.

"Waiting for the Federal Police to arrive."

Within minutes, comments of "What's going on?", "What have you done now?" and "You mean they've finally caught up with you?" made their appearance. I really liked the comment "So what is that a euphemism for?"

Needless to say, I was waiting for a member of the Australian Federal Police.

My mate Kip, an old university friend, is in Melbourne on secondment, trying to bring some baddies to justice (his words, not mine) He called and asked if I'd like to grab a coffee during the week. Always happy to catch up with visiting old mates.

Being 5.30 pm and knowing that most decent coffee joints were closed, we took on Plan B and headed to the Irish Times for a pint.

We had a giggle over the fact that my phone was going bonkers with status comments.

"Ah, let 'em sweat." I said.
Kip commented,"They seem to think you get into trouble."
"Yeah, I'm always in trouble. But not trouble that will land you in jail."

We had a very pleasant evening catching up on life, the universe and everything. Being a stranger to Melbourne, I gave him some tips on where to go for dinner - appears one of his team will only eat bland food - but he now knows where to get a decent Beef Rendang, even better coffee and where to get knick knacks to take back for his kids.

I was home by 7.30.

Still made for a great status update.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

An Alternative Must See List

Or "What do you mean you haven't seen this film?"

After years of spouting lyrical about Donnie Darko and finding out that there is a very large section of the community who have never seen this cult wonder, I've put together a Pandora's Must See List of Films - films, many of which have been completely overlooked at the box office, or just relegated to the 'meh' piles.

Looking at this list, there are a couple of themes going - unusual characters, personality quirks, fantastic sound tracks - and a presence at the Sundance Film festival. These are some of the lesser known but rather special films that make the list out of sympathy, or special memories.

So here goes. My must see list of neglected, somewhat cult, somewhat obscure films that have tickled my fancy over the years.

1) Donnie Darko (2001) Director, Richard Kelly

Donnie Darko is a cult classic. I group people into groups - those who have seen Donnie Darko - and those who haven't. Other than a seminal sound track, a fantastic cast and a storyline that will have you thinking for months, what's not to love about it? My friend Bernie doesn't get the hype. Glen Waverley and Merijn are due to come over to see it soon - after all, Glen Waverley has put me through most of Tarantino's work now - it's time for me to get a bit of my own back.

The above scene is my second favourite from the film. The part about the sex life of smurfs which comes soon after this still makes me laugh. Gives more insight into teenagers of the eighties than I'd like to admit is true.

Just see it - put yourself in the "I've now seen Donnie Darko and I get what she's on about" group. Love it or hate it - I guarantee you'll be thinking about it for weeks after (and Patrick Swayze's cameo - priceless!)

Also, looking at the date, I wonder how this would have turned out if it was made post 9-11?

2) Garden State (2004) Director, Zach Braff

Garden State was written and directed by Zach Braff of Scrubs fame, which would put some people off this film in a heartbeat.

There is so much the adore about this film. A lot of people would read the storyline and think, "nah."

IMDB gives the storyline as:

"Andrew Largeman is a semi-successful television actor who plays a retarded quarterback. His somewhat controlling and psychiatrist father has led Andrew ("Large") to believe that his mother's wheelchair bound life was his fault. Andrew decides to lay off the drugs that his father and his doctor made him believe that he needed, and began to see life for what it is. He began to feel the pain he had longed for, and began to have a genuine relationship with a girl who had some problems of her own."

Seriously - this is up there with Donnie Darko as one of my favourite ever films. It is quirky. It is funny. It looks at people in a forgiving way - and it takes so much into consideration. A writer's dream of a film - worth it on so many fronts - for Natalie Portman and her guinea pig graveyard, for Peter Sarsgaard's best friend character - and for looking at life in a fresh way. Definitely worth a view.

3) Igby Goes Down (2002) Burr Steers

Nobody has ever heard of Igby Goes Down. It was in the cinemas for a week. A cautionary tale about a poor little rich boy in New York with a heap of dysfunctional characters with very strange lives.

The film stuck with me partly due to the strange family situation (what, I'm not the only one?) but also for Susan Sarandon, who play's Igby's mother. I have a copy of this on DVD. Strangely thought provoking. Hunt it out.

4)  (500) Days of Summer (2009) Director, Marc Webb

Boy meets girl. Boy gets together with girl. Boy loses girl. Boy obsesses about losing girl. Non-linear plot. A fantastic dissection of a relationship and how it takes over your life. Joseph Gordon Levitt is wonderful as Tom, and Zooey Dechanel as Summer, the woman of his dreams and nightmares. Great, great film.

Also worth it for the seriously good version of the Pixies "Here Comes Your Man". Had to work The Pixies into this somehow.

5) Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)  Director, George Armitage

I shove on  this film when I need a laugh. I've also carried a torch for John Cusack since I was in high school and "The Sure Thing" came out. Grosse Point Blank is one of his finest. The story of a hired hit man who goes back to Detroit for his high school reunion.

Another great soundtrack. A wonderful, quirky cast (Joan Cusack as his secretary is sheer brilliance) and some of the best "bang-bang-you're-dead" violence around. And for anybody who's managed to be reunited with school friends, you will understand when Marcella describes the process as "It's just like everybody has swelled.)

6) Secretary (2002) Director, Stephen Shainberg

Edgy, controversial, sexy, thought provoking and fun. The film looks at the relationship between a young woman with issues who becomes the secretary to a very demanding man.

You can't leave this film without setting an opinion - which I reckon is recommendation enough. Were you titillated? Were you turned off? Did it fascinate or fail to impress. An interesting topic handled brilliantly. can't recommend it enough - but make sure no kids are around.

7) Lost in Translation (2003) Director: Sofia Coppola

A few things about Lost in Translation.
1) This is my life. How did they make a movie about my life like this?
2) This film is the best films about culture shock I've ever witnessed.
3) I'd turn for Scarlett Johansson in this film
4) To this day, I want to know what Bob said to Charlotte just as he was leaving at the end of the film.

For anybody who has every travelled to a country where the language and culture are completely different - a must see. This captures it to perfection. Beautifully shot. Funny in places, sad in others. Gives an outsiders view of Japan as well - and has put the place on my wish list of countries to go to.

8) Closer (2004) Director, Mike Nichols

Patrick Marber's "Closer" is my favorite play, and this, the movie of the play, does a good job of bringing it to the screen. One thing I love about it is that the supporting characters - Natalie Portman and Clive Owen, completely decimate the stars - Julia Roberts and Jude Law. They act them off the screen.

The script is phenomenal. The settings show London at it's finest - the London I used to know and love.

It also has the most devastating line ever delivered in a play / movie. Clive Owen, who played Larry on stage, receives this to perfection.

Worth a look just for the alternative views on love, infidelity, loss and London.

9) Peter Pan (2003) Director, PJ Hogan

"A kid's film!" you cry. Yeah, a kid's film - and a bloody good kids film. The English do great kids films for a number of reasons, the first being that they allow kids to be kids while entertaining the adults. There are some rather rocking undertones to this version of Peter Pan, where both Peter and Wendy are nearing adolescence. It also takes on JM Barrie's instructions that Mr Darling and Captain Hook should be played by the same actor - which reverbs through the movie as well.

I also dare anybody to see this film and come away not wanting to shout " I do believe in fairies!" for the next week.

Also worth a viewing for the character of Nana. Inspired casting.

10)  Look Both Ways (2008) Director, Sarah Watt

Australian fare, there is much to love about this film about tragedy, hope, hardships and trials. The film is happy, sad, life affirming, life changing all at once. The experimental technique of blending a little animation in with the story is fantastic. It's also set in Adelaide, it shows a part of Adelaide rarely seen.

The other thing that really gets me about the film, Sarah Watt, the director, was battling cancer when she directed this film. Tragically, she died last year - a phenomenal talent taken - and a great person, as she proved to be when I met her at a writer's festival about six months before she died.

Another film to hunt out for the sheer joy of seeing something so very truthful.

11) Peter's Friends (1992) Director, Kenneth Branagh

Ever gone away with friends for the weekend after a long absence? Ever what would happen if you met up with your old college friends for a weekend? This is a cautionary tale of why reunions are bad news.

This film has made the list for a number of reasons. Kenneth Branagh is under rated as a director. Hugh Laurie can sing. It's often dismissed as a British version of "The Big Chill" another film I could rant on about for being both great, under-rated and forgotten (William Hurt when he was gorgeous. Kevin Costner as the corpse)

I also have great memories of this film. Though I'm not sure I like being compared to the Emma Thompson character.

This gets me thinking. My next film list down the track. Films I should get to seeing one day. There are some shockers on that list.... The Godfather trilogy being number one of my list of fails.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The One Day of the Year

Anzac Day is the one day of the year that I feel even remotely patriotic. It's the one day of the year that I acknowledge that I am Australian. It's the one day of the year that I actually feel proud to be Australian - and saying this is probably sacrilegious, but it's true. Generally, on any normal day, I think I'm English. It's a strange thing, like knowing you're gay, or born into the wrong body, or meant to be an accountant, I resonate with being English. I've always thought that I was English, and I reckon I will always know, with every fibre of my being, that I am a dyed in the wool, cardigan wearing, tea drinking Pom.

Fact is, I'm fifth generation, white Australian. I know this. But then again, I also still think, and will always think, that I am English.

All of the family, all free-settled. not a drop of convict blood in us, came out with the gold rush in the 1850s, or colonised South Australia, looking for a better life in the sunshine about the same time. I'm the progeny of Welsh and Cornish tin miners, with a bit of Cambridgeshire landed gentry thrown into the mix for good measure. My expired passport says I'm Australian, but my genetics tell me I should be roaming the green of Old Blighty, looking for a decent pint or Devonshire Tea, eating Spotted Dick and Toad in the Hole and whinging about the weather.

Anzac Day, is the one and only day of the year that I feel and think I'm Australian. It's strange, but it's the only day that this happens, without fail.

See, in this family of quiet, stoic, hard-working, lower middle class folk, there comes a part of the story that was never celebrated - never acknowledged, never even commented on throughout my childhood, nor my mother's childhood.

Of my grandmother's brothers, Uncle Ol and Uncle Will - men of the cloth, Methodist Ministers - both of them were stretcher bearers at Gallipoli.

Of my grandfather's brothers - Uncle Keith lies in a grave in Egypt - unfortunately he caught typhoid and passed away before making the front.

Uncle Roy, three bar Military Medal recipient, was responsible for keeping the telegraph lines open at Villers Brettoneaux and Fromelles.

My great-grandfather and the other two uncles both went over, but were returned to be a part of the home guard. My grandfather signed up, but was turned down due to poor health at the time - it's interesting to read his records - stating clearly on his recruitment forms "Too skinny."

There is a lot to be remembered. We were very, very lucky in many respects. Other than Uncle Keith, they all came back, physically intact

But these facts were never talked about. Never commemorated. Never talked about. Ask Uncle Roy about what he got his medals for and he would reply that he received them for milking a cow in No-Man's Land. Reading his war record tells of a man of valour, courage, tenacity and strength of levels most of us could never even dream of.

The horrors these so seeming ordinary men must have see is quite beyond me.

I can only feel proud to be related to these men, remember their service, salute their courage and hope and pray that nobody has to send their children off to war ever again.


On a brighter note, today is the Units' birthday party. Chance and Lance are turning two next week and being a day off, Blarney and Barney are throwing them a party.

And being Aunty Panders, I'm in charge of the birthday cakes.

I had this discussion with Blarney last year. She said that she would buy them a cake, but I said I'd get in there and make them one - each. They are twins after all, they need one each.

Blarney doesn't quite get this, but I really like baking - and I sort of want to start a bit of a tradition.

Maybe it's that in my not that happy childhood, the one thing I do remember is that my mother would always make me a birthday cake with smarties on top, and that I've always associated having such a cake with being loved. After all, how often does somebody get off their bum and make you a birthday cake? Thinking about it, I think about how often somebody just makes me dinner or a cup of tea - I love when people cook for me - it happens so rarely in this busy life we live, whien it does happen it's a joy - can be something as little as beans on toast. I love it when somebody makes me food.

Anyway, for the last two nights, I've been in the kitchen being rather industrious. Up to my armpits in flour, butter, cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla essence... My little food processor has been working overtime - because, being twins, they need a cake each, so there are no arguments. This is my little act of aunty devotion.

I know it would be easier to go to the shop, but I like doing this. Knowing that my chances of ever being a mother are slipping away with ever minute that passes, it's nice to have people to do this for. It's cool to think that maybe in ten years time these two will be rolling their eyes as a chocolate cake with raspberry jam filling, chocolate icing and smarties on top.

Besides, I was raised to be a housewife - taught to bake and knit and crochet and cook and clean and iron from a young age, because, when I was brought up, women were teachers and nurses and secretaries and home makers - things were starting to change, but I reckon it was imagined when I was born that I would get married and have kids and be the mother of teenagers by the time I was forty. It's not the case, and that is fine, but it's cool to think that I was given some of these home making skills, not that anybody meeting me now would think I possess them.

Thankfully things have changed, but even so, it's nice that these skills have been deeply ingrained get an airing every so often.

Anyways, last year the boys got a dinosaur cake.

This year, being car mad, they each got a car cake. Only one, as they weren't really aware of what was going on back then. This year is different - one a piece - it's the way it's got to be.

So, cake for Unit One. (Chance or Lance, take your pick)

And a cake for Unit Two (they're interchangeable)
And a round of cupcakes just in case enough sugar and butter haven't been had... and I will admit to cheating and using a packet job here - but generally, I make my cakes from scratch.
And I feel pretty good.

Just hope they like them.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Puddles, Presents and Popping Cherries

As Friday go, this last one was superb.

After a week of reading, learning , training and finding the lay of the land at my new job at Your Money Is Important To Us, Inc, I was looking forward to this morning most of all.

See, Friday is running morning - and since I've been somewhat slack on the running front, I was looking forward to this all the more.

In my defence, the week has been hard going on a number of levels and the running has had to take a back
seat for a week, even though I know I have this Great Ocean Road Half Marathon coming up in a month. Starting the new job took a bit out of me. However, I've been making sure I've been getting a lot of walking in - around 10 kms a day knowing I wouldn't make the gym.

Thursday night I'd had a session with Pinochet, getting tortured in Pinochet's special way - which this time just happened to be reasonably heavy weights and some revolting abdominal crunches. The adult human body is not supposed to be able to support itself only on the toes and forearms with nothing else touching the floor. Add into this what I'll refer to as the 'horizontal hokey pokey'. Left foot out, right foot out, up on the right hand, up on the left hand, down on the right elbow, down on the left elbow, right foot in, left foot in. Repeat ten times, three times over. Not pleasant.

Pinochet's other favorites from Thursday night - hoiking a 12.5 - 15 kilogram dumb bell from the ground to over my head - one armed, 10 times each side, three times over. We were in the trainer's room with another trainer, a rather large, bald, intimidating fellow who would fit in well at a Hitler Youth parade a la Rolf from the Sound of Music. A middle aged man was being put through his paces by a stern looking Rolf. I looked at the weights he was pushing. He looked at mine.

"Your trainer's soft." I told him.
He replied in dulcet South African tones. "No, you're effing scary."
Rolf chipped in, "Would you say that to my face?"
I had to smile. "Of course. You're soft." And I continued shoving this mass the weight of a two year old child over my head.

Pinochet instructed me to play nicely with those less fortunate than myself.

I do enjoy this light-hearted brinkmanship. I know I push what's referred to as 'boy' weights. I like being strong...It's rather nice to stand there and be a little intimidating - not that I am - but I like the feeling.

The other occurrence which threw me out this week was dream group. My dream this time round. A dream of an old boss who would give David Brent a run for his money in the people management stakes, his only saving grace being he was very switched on when it came to computers. A dream where he and I were getting on well. There was a baby in the dream too, well fed but it wasn't really nurtured, and this guys plain, pretty accountant of a wife. Then this rather disturbing bit about picking large, ugly lemons rotting on a vine (or maybe they were custard apples) - but it was this bit of the dream that got to me.

Regardless, after an hour of some really intense conversation where a part of my life never discussed came up, I left dream group feeling like my psyche had been given a once over with an industrial cheese grater and the instructions to wear lots of blue and be nice to myself.

Wednesday night one of the rare nights when I come home from dream group and wished that there was somebody around to give me a cuddle - which considering the last time anybody held me was years ago, I had to find another way to cope and not dwell on this desire. Resisting ice cream, chocolate, alcohol - not wanting to numb the emotions, I just had to feel, and cry and weep and process. And feel, cry, weep and process I did. As dream group reactions go, this was a big one - but necessary - cleansing and affirming. I made it to bed well after one, cried out, but at peace.

On the Thursday, dutifully wearing a pair of blue knickers and blue top went to work - and went shopping at lunchtime for something I've been coveting for a while. This wasn't a compensation present. This was a reward for all the hard work. A gift to myself for the work that is being done. A gift to mark a milestone that came out in dream group the night before.

I'm a collector of Pandora jewellery - I have been since before it was really popular. I walked away with the Tree of Life bead and earrings, their power resonating with me as walked back to the office, wallet moaning, but happy.

Anyway, back to Friday morning and running. For once, I was a bit early - making the 7 a.m. tram. It had started to spit as I boarded, the morning warm and close. By the time I reached the office and dropped off my bag, it was raining. Al and Den, the old workmates from Bastard Bank came out of the building as I arrived at our meeting spot.

"Should we go?" asked Den.
"Of course, the rain might pass." I said, ever the optimist.
"Looks like it might be heavy." said Den.
"Don't be a wuss. It's only water," added Al.
"And it's not cold. Besides, I need this. Mush, mush."

Friday morning's run was one of the best runs ever. An eight kilometre traipse around the botanical gardens from the far end of town. It was pelting down. Very few people were on the footpaths and trails. I tucked my glasses down my bra, the water making it impossible to see through them, thankful I'm not so myopic that I'd trip up. This was warm, driving rain - rain that had made its way down from the tropics. If you're going to run in the rain, this is the rain to do it in (fine drizzle only just trumping this).

Best of all, the three of us, all in our late thirties and early forties, made a point of jumping in EVERY puddle we could find, of which there appeared to be one every few hundred metres. The more splash the better - with points given for if you got somebody else in the process. I made the mistake as we neared the office to jump in a puddle which was deceptively deep, saturating what was already damp and everybody around me. Even better, wearing a new pair of ASICs, I felt they were appropriately christened.

This run was seriously brilliant fun.

The three of us agreed that though our time wasn't great, that was the best run we'd ever gone on. Changing and showering at the gym ten minutes later, my running clothes felt like they'd just been pulled out of the washing machine. I can't remember being so wet in ages.

It set up the day beautifully.

Later that evening, I had Jonella and Teddy - a new friend of mine and an old mate of Jonella's, came over to mine for a quick dinner and an evening of cinematic cherry popping.

See, Jonella and Teddy had never seen Donnie Darko before this evening. When I found out they'd never viewed this masterpiece, my incredulous look had them bamboozled. Both of them had heard of Donnie Darko, but had never investigated.

Like how can you not have seen Donnie Darko? Superlative film.(Though saying this, Glen Waverley hasn't seen it either and we keep trying to make a night to see it) It's up there in my top five favourite films.

So after a meal at the local Italian pizza joint, the E Lounge - one of Melbourne's best kept secrets and home to some of the best pizza I've had out of Italy, it was back to mine for a viewing of this magnificent film, and some ice cream - being of the Maggie Beer's Burnt Fig, Honeycomb and Caramel variety.

All of this made for a wonderful day.

Jonella and Teddy left suitably perplexed and in awe of the magnificence that is Donnie Darko, their Donnie Darko cherries well and truly popped - with a view to doing this pizza and film thing regularly - the next film on the list, another favorite of mine - Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colours - Blue". Another of my very favourite films and another one I can never believe when people say they haven't seen it.

All of this, the puddle jumping, the friends, the laughter, the great cinema - and of course the ice cream, made for a pretty good day all round.

Here's to more like it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Midvale School for the Gifted

My favourite cartoon ever is one of Gary Larsen's. It's well known. (See below)

Unfortunately, this cartoon has often come to represent my life. Far too often do I find myself in "Midvale" moments.

I've had a few of these rather unfortunate moments over the last 24 hours.

Some background.

One of my least favourite memories is the day I started at a new school when I was in grade three. Before we moved to the Adelaide Hills, to the picturesque but badly named town of Myponga, I was just a normal school kid. I had a small group of friends, I went to brownies, I played with the kids next door - a fairly normal childhood.

Then everything changed. First up, my mother cut off my long hair to a rather dire bowl cut, telling me that all girls in the country had short hair. We moved to a place there the nearest kids were about a kilometre down the road, away from the suburban streets and the nearby friends.

Then a week after shifting house, I moved to the local primary school at the start of third term. I was sick to my stomach scared - I remember my tummy rumbling away with nerves - after all, here I was, this new kid, I kept questioning myself. Would these country kids like me? Was I going to fit in? Would my hair be the same? Was everything going to be alright? 

Mum tried to reassure me the night before.

Arriving at the school, I can only recall being horrified.  All the girls had long hair. Here I was with a bowl cut. Then sometime in the morning classes we had reading. Sitting on the ground, listening to the teacher, the urge to break wind came over me, as it does most people once or twice a day.  Then disaster. My turbulent stomach got the better of me - I burped and farted, concurrently, and loudly - so most of the class heard. 

The ensuing mayhem quietened after a few minutes, but I'd made my mark. Horrified, I tried to disappear in the carpet, humiliated, knowing that my chance of making a good impression had gone. It didn't help that a week later I went into hospital to have my legs fixed, spending the next three months on crutches and in plaster boots - and the rest of my primary school days were dogged being not allowed to play sport and being in and out of hospital for more treatment. It didn't make for a happy time.

So now, some thirty five years on, I still find myself dreading first days - with all the same concerns. Will I fit in? Will the other kids play nicely with me? Will I be smart enough? Will things all be too hard? Will the others find me too loopy?

Being a consultant, I've got a game plan. I go in to new roles as a professional. I try and keep personal details to a minimum for the first few weeks so that the natives don't get scared away. I try and make sure I follow the rules of the place - keep to the dress code, keep my hours in check with everybody else, make an effort to get on - and this generally works. By the end of a few weeks, my workmates will discover that I'm a holistic healer, run, look after cats, come from a town called Myponga, barrack for the Crows, dislike Oxford commas, read tarot professionally, have things on at night like dream group and masons and all the other quirks I possess that work mates will tend roll their eyes at. Over the years, I've noticed that my idiosyncrasies are tolerated more, or maybe, I just don't care that much - I'm me, bad luck, you'll get used to me in the long run. I don't hurt anybody - my life is just a bit full and a bit different.

Regardless, I started a new role on Monday at the telecommunications firm, Your Money Is Important To Us, Inc (TIMIITU). I was hand picked for this role by one of he managers and after a few hiccoughs with the contract, I fronted up to meet the team on Friday and started with them yesterday.

Thankfully, the team are a dream - lovely people. The work will be interesting. I have a been given a new laptop to work on, which I managed to configure with minimal help. Being a very large telecommunications company, it's expected that your LAN login, phone, door pass and email won't arrive for a few days, but with the help of a key drive, I got reading major documents and starting to get my head around what they want me to do.

By 5 pm, I was ready to go home. Dutifully, the new laptop was locked into a cupboard - and I faithfully put my new locker key on my key ring next to my car key. I remember this clearly. I was talking to to colleagues and I placed the locker key on my key ring next to the car key. I thought about it. I remember doing this.

Home was a long way off on Monday night. Walking home, first stop was at an office supply company to buy myself a notepad, mouse and keyboard for work (easier to bring your own, being one of the largest telecommunications companies, you're not going to get office equipment out of them - especially being a contractor). I went to masons early, setting up the hall (and didn't tell anybody about the freemasonry stuff - give that a month or two). Came home, had dinner, went to masons, came home again, went to bed, showered dressed, walked to work.

On arrival at the new office, I placed my handbag down on my desk, took my bunch of keys to the locker - to find the locker key gone - not there. Zip. Nada. Disappeared.

Hand on heart, I remember putting it on the key ring, next to my car key.

I proceeded to look through my handbag for the key. Like many women, my handbag is a bit of a tardis - I could live off it's innards for a week at times. It was upended, completely. No key. The project manager asked if there was a dalek in the bottom of my bag. Oh dear.

I checked the desk I'd sat at the day before. I checked everywhere I could thing of. No key. No laptop. No documents. No water bottle - all locked in the cupboard.

Second day in, I'm branded the project nufta. This won't be lived down.

It's grade three all over again.

I was asked if I could pick locks. I replied in the affirmative, but only Yale locks and car doors pre-1985. Something I picked up at university college... Opps, not supposed to admit to that either.

One of the team leads was taking a stationary order. It was requested that they got me a combination cable lock. Pointed jibes came from all directions over the day.

Thankfully, the problem of the laptop was solved quickly in five minutes. After all the blokes in the team had a try of picking the lock with a variety of safety pins,  paper clips and other sharp stationery items, with no luck, I went to see the facilities guy. It's amazing what a guy called Lennie in an Anthrax t-shirt can do with a letter opener and a bit of brute force.

Laptop liberated, I got on with the day.

The second "outing" came when in a meeting early afternoon. One of my colleagues, somebody I knew from the old consultancy was complaining of a neck ache. 
"Give me your thumb, I'll fix it."
She looked at me, eyebrows raised.
"Just do as you're told. Like Jonella, I'm a reflexologist." This girl knows Jonella too.
"Ah." She gave me her hand.

Two minutes later, the relief was showing on her face.

And I realised that my vow to keep my "other life" quiet had gone out the window.

So much for keeping schtum, in the background and fitting in.

I suppose it makes me a little more memorable.

So tonight, the laptop was locked in a colleague's locker and I walked home.

 Arriving home, the first thing to strike me - the locker key was sitting in the middle of the lounge room floor.

I reckon the Gods of the Midvale School for the Gifted came to extract some brownie points or something...

Regardless, I'm still hopeful this contract will be a good one. If this is the worst thing to happen to me, I'm a very lucky woman.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Loving the Inner Pariah

In my year of firsts, tomorrow marks a very particular rite of passage. Tomorrow, I'm going to my very first football match at the hollowed ground that is the Melbourne Cricket Ground - my first time viewing a game at this ground. This, after twelve years living in Melbourne.

I've only been inside MCG three times in the past - despite living in walking distance from its hallowed wicket. I went there for Alice and Dougall's citizenship ceremony, I ran around the ground when I completed my first Melbourne Half Marathon, and again, I popped in after the 2011 Melbourne Half Marathon - that's it. No reason to go there. It's a place of football and cricket - best watched on the television.

Also, by football, I mean what I call real football - not that soccer crap (boring - nobody ever scores, people cry injured like the sooky la-las at the drop of a handkerchief), not Rugby League (thick set thugs throwing the ball backwards and slamming into each other).

I'm going to the only football code that makes any sense to me.

Australian Rules.

See, thing is, as much as I like football - I get bored after a quarter or two. I tend to prefer to watch the football on the telly so I can get some other stuff done, checking the scores every so often and paying attention when the crowd roars (if I have the sound turned up). Just like with the cricket. If things get a bit exciting, then I can sit down and watch the quarter.

Some of this boredom stems from the fact that as a kid I used to man the scoreboard at the Myponga Oval when the under 13s used to play. Nothing more interesting that watching the Myponga Junior Colts play the Goolwa Loonies or he Encounter Bay Heathens. Real fun. Ended up with bronchitis more often than not sitting out that scoreboard freezing my butt off during the cold, wet Myponga winters. I associate football with hacking, wet coughs and low grade fevers.

The admission that I can't quite watch a full game will probably horrify many "true" football fans too. I'll admit to liking the game. It's nice to know that my team has won - I can normally tell rough scores and margins at the end of most weekends during footy season, like I can tell you where we are on the ladder - but that's where it ends. Don't ask me the names of the players - no idea. By the end of the match I'll tell you who has nice legs and a fine bum.

It's a game. There are 18 men running round in short shorts on an oval - what's not to like? But being a game, after talking about it for five minutes, I'd prefer to talk about something sensible - like books or movies or work or the news. If it wasn't for the hot men in the short shorts, seriously, I'd be ignoring the game completely.

Another thing that is slightly worrying me about going to this particular match. Blarney's partner, Barney, invited me along to the match with some of his friends. Barney barracks for Hawthorn. Being from Northern Tasmania, this is to be expected, as this is Hawthorn heartland.

Me, on the other hand, coming from Adelaide, barrack for the opposing team.

The Adelaide Crows.

There are some fundamental differences between Hawks supporters - okay, any of the Melbourne teams, and Crows supporters.

First up, I'm from Adelaide. I say things like dah-nce, prah-nce, vah-se, chah -nce - not daaaance, praaance, vayse and chaaaance. Allegedly, I'm the one who talks funny.

Second, being from Adelaide, it is in my genes to be parochial, snotty, insolently superior and generally misguided - or so my Victorian counterparts tell me.

Thirdly, being from Adelaide, I'm supposedly feral. Adelaide supporters are known to be little tinkers, as my grandmother referred to me when I broke her television.

By feral, I mean we are known for do things like keying opposing teams cars in the car park, throwing beer cans at matches, swearing a lot and generally being loud, obnoxious and unpleasant to be around.

I look at this description and I immediately think of Port Adelaide supporters - who make Adelaide supporters look like Cistercian nuns. Port supporters are the Collingwood/Millwall/(insert the lower socio-economic scumbag team here) supporters of South Australia.

This pretty much sums it up:

And this is quite accurate too:

So tomorrow, I meet Blarney and about ten of his mates, all Hawthorn supporters.I will be sitting there in my blue, red and yellow clothing, my Crows scarf and beanie (although it's allegedly going to be 27 degrees Celsius in the shade) looking at my freshly painted blue fingernails, hoping to hell we don't disgrace ourselves too much - as the rest of the people I'm with cheer on the other team.

The last match I went to we lost by 103 points. I was sitting there with friend hoping that Etihad Stadium would flood or be overtaken by another act of God so that the purgatory was over quickly.

I've never been to a game where we've won. The tidings aren't good.

Then there are the other football pastimes you're expected to partake in. Eat a meat pie and drink football beer at half time.

First up, I've never eaten a meat pie in my life. Allegedly made from horse meat - well, that is what I was told as a kid. They look and smell revolting - why should I start now? Footy food isn't that inspiring.

Secondly, the beer they serve at the footy is this stuff called "mid-strength". It's watered down beer and tastes like watered down beer. With all the new rules around bringing things into the grounds, I'm buggered if I'm paying a fiver for a cup of tea too.

I do have to go? Yes. I have to wave my team colours proudly - it's a matter of state pride. I have to show that I am a proud and loyal South Australian, even if I left there twenty-one years ago never to return for more than a few days at a time.

I know that I'll have to go and endure the endless jibes about Adelaide being the murder capital of the Australia ( But I lived there 23 years and I didn't get murdered once.), that you can go to Adelaide and find it closed on any given weekend or that although the place is 30 minutes behind the rest of the mainland in time, it's 20 years behind in fashion and almost everything else.

Okay, so it's not trendy to be an Adelaide supporter.

But it's what you do when you come from a backwater that's infested with white pointer sharks, acid wash denim wearing Elizabethans and gets less rain than some places in the Sahara. It inspires a misguided pride. It is where I come from. I am a proud flag waving South Australian. Fifth generation South Australian, me. It's something about me that's not going to change in a hurry.

Long live my inner pariah. C'ARN THE CROWS!!!

And pray that the Crow's winning streak continues - to date, we haven't lost a game this year, including winning the pre-season "Who Cares" Cup.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Another One Off the Bucket List

Jonella dared me to blog about this experience.

Talking to a friend earlier today, I explained that in a former life I was probably a cat - and that I'm far too curious for my own good at times. They agreed with me. Far too curious. Always sticking my nose in places I shouldn't. Always looking down alleyways and through doorways. Nosey to some - curious to others.

Looking back over the last forty years I can name some experiences that I've wanted to try and I can say I've done it once or twice - and that will do. Party drugs fall in to this category. After taking ecstasy and speed on a few occasions in my twenties, I can say that I've tried it, didn't like it that much and we'll leave it at that. I've tried absinthe - once, had to be done. I've danced all night in clubs. I've seen amazing cinema and plays. I've read books I've been told to avoid - 'American Psycho' comes to mind on this one.

Also, as a practising alternative therapist, I've tried some weird and wonderful things over the years. One of the great things about body work, like Alice's Rabbit Hole, it keeps getting deeper and darker. I play with feet all the time, and have no issue with rubbing a person's manky clodhoppers (after they've been cleaned). Being into alternatives,you feel obliged to visit other forms of alternative therapy - just to experience them. Laughter therapy was something that got tried a few months ago. I've done the odd past-life regression, I know of a Middendorf Breath Practitioner. I'm fond of Alexander Technique, have had the odd kinesiology appointment and know all about Theta Healing and Reference Point Therapy.

Today's appointment, however, was the last bastion in the alternatives.

Colonic irrigation.

For something that's a common activity for everybody on the planet, our back passages and the muck that's excreted  from this hole is a bit of a no go area. We talk about headaches. We women talk about our cycles, with each other, some of the time. But nobody talks about poo. Farts, yes. Poo, no.

A few weeks ago, on one of the group buying websites, a voucher for colonic irrigation came up. And in a fit of madness and curiosity, I purchased it.

And after pressing the buy button, I felt a sense of regret. No going back now (unless I let the voucher lapse, and I'm too mean for that.)

Well, today was the day for my allotted appointment to have my back passage flushed.

I mentioned this to a few friends, the response mostly being, "You're brave, always wanted to try that. You'll have to tell me all about it." A few others said, "Better you than me." I've also got a few friends who swear by colonics for various issues and complaints. Jay, my doctor mate from the gym said it was a waste of time and money.

Me, I've just always been curious about this process.

At the end of it, I'd call it more confronting, but not in a bad way. It can be a touch uncomfortable, but certainly not painful. And as for the benefits - we will see.

On arriving at the clinic in Camberwell, home to the colonic flush according to my naturopath ("Could it be that there are more people in Camberwell full of shit?" he postulated.) I was made to fill in the necessary paper work. The woman at reception was professional and calming. I explained that I was a feature writer and this was being done in the name of research - and that I'd always been curious.

Serves me right.

Of the positives of the whole experience, everything in the place was surgically clean and at no time did I feel ill informed or violated. Everything was explained completely and every effort was made to make me feel at ease. At all times I felt my privacy was respected and I did not feel exposed. So they're the good things.

Looking at the whole process, which took about 45 minutes in total, there were some uncomfortable moments. The first one came when asked to stick the lubricated tube in the position.

The bit of tubing that is inserted into your bum the least of these strange moments. About the diameter of a standard  pencil, you're asked to insert this 2 centimetres into you anus. No dramas here at all. You then arrange yourself on a special table, put a towel over your bottom half and call the therapist in with a buzzer, who then starts the treatment.

Think of it like an internal dish washing cycle. A first rinse, a deep cleansing and a final rinse. You're given the instruction, "When you feel the need to release, release." as the therapist starts pumping the water in. This is where things get a bit strange. There is a tube up your back passage  - how is the rubbish supposed to escape and the tube not pop out? Somehow, it doesn't. Fluid comes in, fluid goes out. Ad infinitum. The sensation is strange, but not unpleasant. They give you a large, heated wheat bag to place on your abdomen to help alleviate any cramping. It was welcome, but I had no cramps. It was more comforting than anything.

The waste is drained off and suctioned out via a clear tube into the plumbing. I only found this out after the treatment, so I didn't watch what was coming out. Thank goodness.

The deep cleanse cycle is a bit of relief. After a ten minute initial rinse out, you're filled with a mixture of coffee, herbs and charcoal, which trickles in, rather than being pumped in over a few minutes. You're also asked to hold this in. After this, it's another 15 minutes of rinsing with body temperature, filtered water.

What does it feel like?  Hmm, best way I would describe it is rear-end gastro without the cramps, bloating, fever or urgency to get to the nearest loo. You do feel cleaned out after. This is the good thing about colonics.

After the treatment is over, you're asked to removed the tube, rinse yourself off and dress. All over in the hour.

I found the process confronting, not for what was being done, nor for what happened in the clinic itself. It was more the what was coming out. What is this shame attached to poo in all its forms? Why is it we don't give poo it's full credence? It's just another bodily substance. The other thing that was confronting was after the session, getting off the table, seeing some of the results in the capture area. I was told to not touch anything, just rinse myself off and go. My mother's voice went off in my head, the one that always tells me to leave the bathroom how you found it. Protestant training or shame? I can't be sure.

On leaving the centre, I was given the instructions to drink a lot of water and make sure I avoided starchy foods for the next few days.

So I take myself off to the movies, having a bit of time to kill and not really up for a run - went and saw "A Dangerous Method". Quite ironic that it was a movie about Sigmund Freud. After a necessary stop at the bathroom to finalise the job started at the clinic, the film was a great way to debrief, which was needed. The experience effected me a little more than I thought it would.

And now, a few hours on, I feel a bit whooshy, but fine. Again, it's like that feeling you get after you've had gastro, when all the symptoms are gone and you just feel empty - and this is the good thing.

Would I go back again for another session. Yes, but it's not something I'd rush back to. For now, this is in the basket of things, like party drugs, absinthe and paint balling - glad I've given it ago once, it's been demystified, but I'm not in any hurry to go back.

I'm still glad I'm an inquisitive wee beastie - being a Leo, I am naturally curious, it's in my blood - and I wonder what will be next off the list. Skydiving? Ashram in India? A Burlesque course? Advanced Driver Training? Scuba diving? (Huge fear of open water - can't see that one happening in a hurry)

However a few friends have been asked to remind me, next time I'm going to cross off something like colonic irrigation off the bucket list, ask me if I REALLY want to do it. I'll probably still say yes, just consider it a bit longer before taking the plunge.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Good Things about Temporary Unemployment

It's the afternoon. I'm at my computer. The flat is untidy, but at least I can see the lounge room floor and it's been hoovered to remove the last remnants of the squeeky cat that came to stay over Easter. My bed has been made. The dishes are done.

There is something to be said about not working. The house looks a bit better than it normally does.

The benefits of temporary unemployment are good, so I'm finding. There's been a few hiccoughs with this new contract coming through - I'm waiting on emails and phone calls, but with any luck I'll be working from next Monday. But for the moment, I'm enjoying not working.

I'm really enjoying not working.

Silly thing is, I feel as busy as when I'm employed. I also make a to do list and I try and stick with it. Contrary to hard set thought, I've only slept in past 8 a.m once.

The two constants on the daily list are go for a run and write. Both are getting done regularly.

On running, I finally put in my entry for the Great Ocean Road Half Marathon, so I have to get every kilometre that I can into my legs. Tomorrow, being what looks like a nice day, will see me do a loop of the Tan - 10 kms. Friday, I'm allegedly running with the boys from Bastard Bank early in he morning. It's all working well the running lark.

The writing is going well too. I finished my never ending Greek travel article job - thank goodness, though with the Greek economy as it is, heaven knows when or if I'll get paid for it. I've also started the novel - and at 2000 words in, I'm good with that -2000 words that I know will be slashed, cut, revised and reviled over time, but at least it's a start.

Time off means getting some of the jobs that I've been putting off done. First one off the ranks was what I will politely call the two yearly girly maintenance check. This is a horrible, but necessary doctor's appointment. Much worse than going to the dentist - but thankfully not as tortured or drawn out. Necessary, needed, not overly comfortable, but not painful either and thankfully paid for by the government, but it's still revolting. Thankfully my doctor is 1) a woman, 2) gentle and 3) quick. Over in two minutes. And it will stop the stroppy letters coming saying I'm overdue for this test. I didn't mean not to have the test in the allotted time - I've just been waiting for a bit of time off to get it done (and for the memories of endless gynaecological tests of  two years ago to subside).

Besides, I'm still traumatised from the time I went for one of these girly maintenance checks and the nurse told me to imagine that the speculum was my boyfriend's tongue.


I've also booked a dentist's appointment.
I'm having a massage on a week day for a change.
We had book group the other night - Breakfast at Tiffany's - small group, great conversation, even better parma.
I go to the gym during the day.
Most mornings I visit my favorite barista, Phoung, who makes me a mug of skinny cappuccino and draws a picture in the foam for me - just to get me out of the flat.
I'm meeting people for coffee and lunch around the place.

I have on the list to start doing some work on the books for the Co-Masonic Property Association - start to get the books in order. Fun. A really wet and rainy day is needed for that.

Today was lovely in that I went out to see Blarney and the Units and we went down to the feral shed. As a childless woman, the feral shed, also known as  kid's play centre, is modelled on Dante's fourth level of hell, where everybody pushes round stuff with their chests and wails about their lost possessions. Chance and Lance are fed a baby-chino here too -which sounds fancy, but it's a buck a throw for some milk froth with a bit of chocolate sprinkled on top which normally ends up down their respective t-shirts. And the little heathens chuck the marshmallow.Blarney and I are learning to pinch them before they get their grimy hands on them. The boys are two. I suppose they can be forgiven for the lack of table manners.

The feral shed is noisy and filled with children and their harangued parents. In all honesty, the place should be used as a contraceptive. Painted above the door should be the words, "Abandon all hope, Ye who entered here." (Or possibly more apt, "You went through seven years of university - look where you ended up...")

I make the place sound worse than it is - but I last an hour there if there are more than ten kids there, and with peak hour looming, I bade my farewells .

The lovely bit about going round to Blarney's, other than seeing her and the boys, is the reception I get from the cat. Walked in today, and he followed me round the house until he was picked up and given a cuddle. After an hour at the feral shed, I walked back to Blarney's to get my car. A window had been left open so Maow Maow could get in and out. I spied him sitting in a sunny spot inside. I tap on the window. He comes galumphing out for another cuddle.

Love that cat.

The last thing on my list is filling me with a little trepidation. A few months back I took up an offer on a group buying website. The offer was for something I've wanted to try for a long time, but have not had the funds or the courage. The appointment for tomorrow afternoon. My mind boggles as to whether I will be blogging about the joys of colonic irrigation or not. As I said, it's something I've been curious about... as an alternative therapist you have to give other alternative therapies - over the years I've tried ear candling, rolfing, past-life regression, hypnotherapy, crystal healing, theta healing... why not give colonics a go? Why not?

Ask me about it tomorrow night - I'm curious about the whole deal.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Playing Hooky

I really shouldn't try and write after I've been drinking - even just a little bit of wine with dinner, as my last short post shows, but I'm going to attempt to say the stuff I wanted to say then.

I've had a lot on my mind of late, what with running, challenging myself, changing jobs and all sorts of other things, it was time to get some clarity. For me, this meant getting out of Melbourne and playing hooky for a bit - but not too long as I have responsibilities - I have Glen Waverley's cat to look after for one. Also, as I'm still waiting for the paperwork to come though on my new job, the joys of large telecommunications companies and their lack of communication, it looks like I'll be having another week off - which suits me just fine.

Struck with the fact that I have a couple of weeks up my sleeve, the first thing I wanted to do was go away. Then I looked at the funds. And I looked at the funds again. And looked at my responsibilities, thought of the fact that I still have some stuff on in town and that I still haven't validated my passport and being Easter meant that a trip abroad was out of the question.

But it didn't stop me getting away for the night and paying hooky.

Using some Frequent Flyer points I obtained a return flight to Sydney. I also got onto a last minute accommodation website and found a decent hotel room at a bargain rate even for booking it the night before I left. They have some great mystery deals - so taking up the mystery offer, I was thrilled to find myself staying at the five-star Shangri-La Hotel for the night - something I never thought I'd do. Over the years, I've heard many things about this hotel and it's miraculous views of the Sydney Harbour.

Arriving at reception, I was chuffed to find out that I'd been given an upgrade, a harbour view room. This was what was out the window.
Along with a great view, a huge bed and a lovely big bath, being smack in the middle of the Rocks area of Sydney walking distance from everything.

Playing hooky has its advantages. No agendas. No responsibilities. No timetables.

I checked out of my life for 24 hours.

I told  precious few people where I was going. I was looking to go see the Picasso Exhibition at the Art Gallery, but stupidy forgot to check the  dates to find that I'd missed it by a week. I had a mooch around the gallery regardless visiting some wonderful, peace-inducing art. That was the first port of call after lunch.

The great thing about the Rocks is that there are all sorts of restaurants for the sampling. Rather than living on sandwiches and chips as I tend to do on holiday, I went up market. A lovely lunch of duck done a number of ways at a place called Baroque with great harbour views started things off nicely. Washed down with glass of wine and some macarons for after, I was more than happy - though the macarons weren't quite to the standard of my mararon shop down Hardware Lane in Melbourne.

 This is the first time I've been to Sydney without a real reason. I've been up for work a few times, visited friends on a number of occasions, did the City to Surf last year and that's about it. Sydney's never been a place I've liked that much, the killer humidity being a large factor in this, the brashness, the rudeness and the general melee just get me down.

This time, Sydney had a lot more to offer. Wandering the Rocks, taking in that this was the place that white Australia came into being some two hundred and twenty years ago, padding around the streets that would have been trod by all sorts, convicts, soliders and freemen alike. I was lucky with the weather too - a bit breezy, lovely and sunny and just a joy to wander around the streets with no plans in mind.

Dinner was taken at a Belgian Beer Cafe where a pot of mussels was had with one too many glasses of wine. Padding back to the hotel, I traipsed back through the streets to find a much needed holiday ice cream before returning to my room. After a long, deep bath and a good read and I was ready for bed.

This is where the Reckless clip comes into things (see last post). Ever had a favorite song for over twenty years? It's a song that has so many memories attached to it, it's a song that makes me sit, reflect and feel. Shoving my iPod on the docking station, cranking up the sound, there was something very, very surreal about watching the Manly ferry skate into the dock below. A feeling of the time continuum cracking came over me - tears streaming down my face, sitting on the window seat in the dark, watching and reflecting.

Maybe hearing this song all those years ago somehow lead me to this place, perched above the city, watching, checked out of my life, waiting for things to change. There was a feeling of completion about the moment. And a wish that I was sharing it with somebody.

The following morning it was off for a run, much needed after the indulgences of the day before. Strapping on the runners and the heart rate monitor I started on my planned route, somewhat annoyed that I'd left one piece of equipment home - the second level of industrial scaffolding needed to tame my breasts when I run. Setting a gentle pace, I walk/ran from Circular Quay, round the Botanical Gardens to Wooloomooloo and back again.

The run, albeit short and to overly fast, was dedicated to Caballo Blanco.

The runners around me have had quite a bit to say about his death. A man who embodied the quintessential runner. A man who demonstrated everything I know and love about running, especially the zen side of it that I bleat on about. The man was a legend. That he died on a run, doing something that he loved, is a blessing. The fact that they hauled his body out of the canyon to be picked over, autopsied and disposed with in a clinical manner - not so good.

If anybody should have been left to run off into the morning to be never seen again, Caballo Blanco was the man. Let him rot where he lay, the the coyotes and vultures have him for carrion. Let him blend back into the wide open spaces he loved so much. Don't dispose of him with the indignity of modern clinical indifference. Don't sing him off with hymns. Let the legend remain, the white horse that floats around the backwaters, to turn up on odd occasions free from any tethers.

Rest in peace, Caballo Blanco. Your legend will live on.

Coming back to Circular Quay, it was time for breakfast. Holiday breakfast of Eggs Atlantic and a big coffee with some charming breakfast companions.
After breakfast, another long bath spent reading my book (The Hunger Games - the book is fantastic - the movie not to much) I checked out, dropped my bag with the concierge and proceeded to spend another few well spent hours looking around the Powerhouse Museum.

Returning later in the afternoon, a decent steak lunch at Circular Quay restaurant, I made my way back to the airport for the flight home.

The 24 hours taken out of my life left me peaceful and rejuvenated.

It's something I hope to get the opportunity to do again - especially if I'm lucky enough to score a similar hotel room.

Right, I'd better get to spin class - burn off some of the indulgences of the Sydney trip.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Found this

Wanted to share.

Haven't seen this version of what is my favorite song.

Sent shivers down my spine.

Should be writing real stuff, not farting around on youtube.

This has been my favorite song for over twenty five years.

With the news death of Caballo Blanco, I've been trying to work out what to think and what to say.

All I can do is listen to this.

And work out what the death of somebody so inspirational, so generous, sospirited and so free actually means to me.

And I have to go for a run tomorrow morning as a tribute.

I'll get my head around this soon.

In the mean time, I give you James Reyne.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Running for Myself

Today was the annual Run for the Kids. This is an annual Melbourne event which this year which has one of the best courses around Melbourne, the long course taking you through the Domain Tunnel and over the Bolte Bridge then back through the Docklands to the Botanical Gardens, where the race started - some 14.38 kilometres. For some, the race of the Melbourne foot race calendar. For others, like me, it's a chance to participate in group civil disobedience - like how often do you get to run on Citylink and not get either fined or put on psychiatric watch.

Last year, my gammy knee strapped, Trin and I made it through in an hour and 41 minutes. It was a great effort.

The year before, I really wasn't prepared for this race and came in at the hour fifty mark.

This year, at the start of the morning, I would have been happier staying in bed reading my book.

I'm the first one to own up to the fact I haven't been running enough in the last few months. I'm still training 4-5 times a week, but running - I've been slack. I was chuffed the other week when Dan, Alan and myself did an 8 km loop of the Tan in 56 minutes - doing long intervals. I was thrilled with this run.

The other thing that's been on my mind is some stuff that came up at dream group a few weeks back. The competitive overachiever thing. Why do I push myself? Why do I rely on numbers? Why is it that I have to go into this with the this competitive edge. It's been playing on my mind for the last few weeks.

Also, with leaving the job on Friday, finishing up stuff and running around like a headless chook for the last fortnight I didn't get to make arrangements to meet people either before the run or after, which is a bit of a strange feeling as for the last year I've always had people to meet up with. I wasn't fretting about this. It felt like some of the pressure was off. Also had a tarot reading in Daylesford, some 100 kilometres away the night before, which meant arriving home late and very tired.

Generally, not in the right space to go on an all out fast run over a 14 kilometres.

So this morning, I let myself off the hook. I'd run. I'd walk if I wanted to. There was to be no killing myself. I was to run for the love of running. Nothing more, nothing less. Time was not an issue. I haven't been training  to the level to do a fast run. What ever happened, happened. The only element that was important was that I had a good time. Dream group was getting their wish. I was going to run for the sake of running.

Have fun on a 14 km run. Phah!

Setting off for the event on the last tram available to make the starting gun, I was feeling relieved. Not taking anything extra, no jacket, to bag, just me, my phone, credit card and driver's licence in my SPI belt (small personal items belt - the runner's best friend.) and a couple of gels in my t-shirt pocket for the 9 km and end zone. With $20 tucked in my bra for emergency cab fare if I crack the sads and my house keys pinned into my upper bra it was just me and the road. Nobody to meet meant not having to be sociable - or waiting around in loo queues and all the other things you seem to do with others before a run. I got to the starting line with five minutes to spare, hanging out with the orange tagged crowd. In a fit of gung ho pride back in January I put myself in the semi-serious runners group with the yellow tags - able to run the 14 kms in under 1.30. Trained up, I theoretically should be able to do this quite easily - but not today.

Today was about fun. A nice long training run - albeit through a tunnel and over a bridge, on the road... not from my place, round the Tan and back again.

The other thing about the day - humid. Bleargh. I hate humidity. I hate humidity even more when I run - mainly because it tends to make my bra shred my breasts to kingdom come. The chafing began to become apparent around kilometre three. I was thinking about how to get off the course and use that money stashed down my front.

Salvation came at kilometre four. In front of me, a rather short woman with a loping stride.


"I know that stride anywhere!" I yelled in her ear over her doofdoof music.
"Pandora! Weyheey."

Bobby and I ran about 10 kms of the 2009 Melbourne Half Marathon together. We sat on each other's pace quite well at the time before I went off around the 12 km mark. Last year, I ran into her again, but this time, running far stronger, we chatted for five minutes then I streaked ahead - and came in a good 20 minutes in front of her.

Today, with no agenda other than to enjoy myself, Bobby and I stuck together. She slowed me down, I sped her up. We talked about all sorts of stuff from the four kilometre mark. Work, health, life. We're both originally from Adelaide. We both work in IT. We've both struggled with our fitness. It was just fantastic to have somebody to chat to. We saw each other over the Westgate and over the Bolte. Bobby kept telling me that I should go on, she was slowing me down. I said I'd run with her until the nine kilometre mark  - then I'd have my gel and let the Running Fairy really kick in (The running fairy is the annoying bint I turn into after having a gel. I sing. I smile and I speed up and pass lots of people... oops)

The thing I love most about running, after the fitness and the sense of achievement, is the generosity of spirit you can find with it. I loved that Bobby let me run with her- facing the road together. I love the encouragement you get from the other runners on the course. I love the fact that across the race, you get to meet so many different people - all running for different reason. It's wonderful.

Through the Docklands, I passed another woman I'd met on runs before. Said hi, gave some encouragement, and ran on. This encouragement -this camaraderieie among strangers - love it.

An hour and forty eight minutes later - I finished. Not my fastest time. Not my slowest time. The joy comes in the fact I participated in something - and loved every minute of it. I ran for the sake and the love of running. Nothing more.

However, there was one other great result for the day. By taking it easy and enjoying the run, I've come out of it in great shape - barely an ache on my body. My poor breasts are covered in bandaids, lavender oil and papaya cream to ease the irritation of the chafing, but that's it.

I walked the four kilometres home to Richmond and went and sat in Glen Waverley's bath for an hour with my book. The bath steeped with Epsom salts. The cat sitting in the bathroom door shouting at me. Breakfast at Tiffany's delighting the soul. It was bliss.

All I'm aware of now, other than a bit of lingering tiredness and the knowledge that over the next eight weeks I have some real training to do. The Great Ocean Road Half Marathon is not a walk in the park. 23 kilometres of hills from Kennetts Bridge to Apollo Bay. I'm not setting  at time for myself, though I would like to be a little lighter and running better - not that I'm running that badly.

In the training comes the knowledge that I can do this, and do this well.

A great result all round.